Intern Insight

A Word from Rachel Lamb: Uggianagtug (n.)


uggianagtug (n.) - a North Baffin Inukitit word meaning “unexpected behavior” or “unfamiliar way.”


This year one of our interns, Rachel Lamb, recieved a very prestigious internship with the Environmental Protection Agency, and because it was congruent with what HNGR is about, our office accomodated her internship to include 3 months in the Pacific Northweast with the EPA and four months in Peru. In August, Rachel will be interning with A Rocha Peru. Here, Rachel explains a little about her internship with the EPA and what she’s been learning thus far:

“I work for the EPA’s Tribal Trust and Assistance Unit which is located within the Office of Ecosystems, Tribal and Public Affairs…We work specifically with recognized tribal governments (of which there are 273 in Alaska alone!) in Region 10 which is Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Alaska has been described as ‘ground zero’ for climate change and tribes are feeling an enormous amount of stress right now from a reduction in permafrost, warmer winters, melting ice, shore erosion, and rising sea levels to name a few stressors. This great need for adjustment strategies is coupled by the fact that there are limited financial resources available to many tribes to do the work that it takes to continue living the way they have for thousands of years. So, solutions have to be very practical.

“My project at work is to understand the impacts of climate change on tribal communities in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest and find tangible and practical ways to help these communities adapt to the changes. The word uggianagtug is a North Baffin Inukitit word which means ‘unexpected behavior’ or ‘unfamiliar way.’ The traditional ecological knowledge and way of life that has been passed down for generations in many of these tribes tells a story which is becoming more difficult to carry out. The environmental changes described by many of the tribal elders, are putting enormous strain on the ecology and culture of these communities. This week has been primarily one of research on what exactly is affecting these communities and the realities are sobering. One way or another I am going to hunt down case studies of work already being done globally and see what might work in the tundra. Climate change is no joke… These tribal communities are feeling the effects of climate change right now and are in desperate need of adaptation strategies to help them adjust.

”Most of the tribes still rely on subsistence methods of hunting and gathering and many of the tribal elders have been noting that the seasons, weather, and animal patterns are changing much faster than ever before. Traditional tribal knowledge is something which my supervisors have stressed the importance of and they have encouraged me to find ways to respect it and incorporate it into my study. It reminds me a little bit of my Life, Land, and Water class with Dr. Arnold because he always stressed the need to take into consideration and value the indigenous models of agriculture instead of only focusing on Western science. In my training and research I have been learning so much that breaks my heart about the devastation that climate change brings to these indigenous cultures and the surrounding ecosystems. However, I am glad for the challenge this project brings to try and find practical and tangible ways help alleviate some of the destruction. I often focus too much on the big picture problems and I have a hard time focusing on real and practical solutions. Perfect project for me to grow! There also seems to be many parallels with the developing world.” --Rachel Lamb

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